Criterion is crashing the conga line with that slightly stiff dance enthusiast Imogen Smith, who'll provide overview introductions for two series that either showcase or prominently feature film noir--a Robert Mitchum retrospective, and a selection of film noir produced at 20th Century Fox.
As you'll see by perusing the link (which will also fill you in on the many other series and one-off features that Criterion will present next month), the Mitchum lineup is wide-ranging and extensive (including almost all of his work in classic noir), while the "Fox noir" assortment is limited only to the better-known films from the studio and consequently seems more than a little bit flat.
Arguments can be made from many perspectives about what constitutes "noir," of course, but the choices either made or imposed on Smith seem to embrace an exceptionally limited definition and amount to a stunning under-representation of Fox's "noir/thriller" output from 1940-1960. The series reveals a lack of initiative to dig more deeply into that large list of films, and gives off a strong impression of simply going through the motions.
It's probably too much to ask for Criterion to shake loose films such as THE 3RD VOICE, which was last seen in its original widescreen format in 2008 at Noir City 6 in San Francisco, but the original mission of Criterion (and one of its signature product lines, the Eclipse series) was to unearth and make available films that have slipped through the cracks. That was a glorious part of their mission statement for many year, but it seems to have gone down a rabbit hole in the past 5-6 years. The lack of range displayed in the "Fox Noir" series is more evidence of this phenomenon, and it is extremely disappointing.
In brighter news, one of my personal faves, THE LAWLESS, will make its Criterion debut this month as part of another series entitled READ ALL ABOUT IT!, a collection of films dealing with newspaper-related stories. A smattering of "newspaper noir" is found here--again, not as much as one might hope--but the inclusion of the oft-overlooked LAWLESS is a welcome exception.